A new addition has been added to the Hillsboro Elementary School playground, and while students are unable to climb it, slide on it or swing from it, the little white box – located behind the playground bench – offers the community a different kind of fun.
The white box, better known as Hillsboro’s Little Free Library, is part of a worldwide movement that, as littlefreelibrary.org reads, strives to “promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges and to build a sense of community as creativity, skills and wisdom are shared across generations.”
When asked how she came across the Little Free Library, Hillsboro Library Friend Mary Dawson credited an article in the Charleston Gazette.
“I thought that it would be really nice for us to have,” she said. “Parents bring their children out a lot in warm weather, and they sit on the benches while their kids play on the playground. It just seemed like a good idea to have books there so that they might pick up a book and read it to their child, or they might take a book home since there are a lot of people coming and going sometimes.”
Filled to the brim with books and magazines for all reading levels and for all shapes, sizes and genres, the Little Free Library appeals to all ages.
“It’s a partnership between Hillsboro Elementary School and the Hillsboro Library Friends,” Dawson explained. “The fifth grade class will monitor the Little Library and check to see if there are enough books, and we’ll help, too. The school will contribute books, as will the [Hillsboro Public] Library, and maybe even members of the community, if they want to.”
Wanting to give the Little Free Library a hometown feel, Dawson and her fellow Friends enlisted the help of Mike Von Statina and Tom Meadows to build the library. Once the library – made using recycled materials and scrap pieces of wood – was completed, Von Statina and Meadows painted the box white and added a waterproof coating.
Then, Dawson affixed a small sign to the front of the box, encouraging community members to “Take a book, leave a book.”
“I just have a little handmade sign on it right now,” she said. “We’re registered with the national Little Free Library, and they’re sending us a plaque. Once we get that, the library will have more of an explanation.”
The Little Free Library movement began in 2009 when founder Todd Bol, of Wisconsin, built a miniature of a one-room schoolhouse and affixed it to a post in his front yard. A tribute to his late mother – a former teacher and lover of books – the little library gained popularity among friends and neighbors.
As the free library’s popularity grew, it caught the eye of Rick Brooks, of the University of Wisconsin, and together, Bol and Brooks created the Little Free Library movement. The pair drew inspiration from numerous avenues – including “Take a book, leave a book” philosophies found in coffee shops and public spaces; Lutie Eugenia Stearns, a librarian who championed traveling libraries from 1895-1914; and Andrew Carnegie, who supported more than 2,500 free public libraries at the turn of the 19th century.
“Our goal is to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries – as many as Andrew Carnegie – and keep going,” the Little Free Library website reads.
“Hopefully it will catch on, and people will use it,” Dawson said. “It’s close to the [Hillsboro Public] Library, but this library isn’t open all the time. Our Little Free Library gives people something to read on the weekends, when the weather’s nice, or if parents are waiting on their children at soccer practice. Any encouragement to read is good.”
Additional information on Little Free Libraries can be found at littlefreelibrary.org.